A Basic Human Need

Advice about work and life is inherently full of annoying platitudes that people bandy around to make themselves feel intelligent, wise, and in general better about their own decisions. Oftentimes, when people dispense advice the last person they’re concerned about is the person they’re talking to. It’s just the way human beings operate today, perhaps always.

We need to feel important, and correct, so we say things that aren’t necessarily true, but even harder to dispute. That gray area is what gave rise to fake news, and goes to show you that people will believe anything as long as they’re not concerned about facts and deeply motivated by having the world align with their feelings and half-baked thoughts. This is the confirmation bias, online echo-chamber of a world we live in. Maybe the human race has always been this prejudiced and biased, but it’s nice – for some reason – to think we haven’t always been this screwed up. But we have. Because history books.

How Money Bankrupts Your Passions

Of course “Do what you love” sounds like great advice. It’s feels logical. It’s about you, after all, and the things you love. And if you love doing something, then getting paid to do it just makes damn good sense. But life isn’t that simple. Neither is work. At least for most of us. The things we love to do in life hold a sacred place in our hearts and minds, as do the people with whom we choose to share those passions. Loving something is a feeling of freedom, putting a price on that thing we love automatically diminishes its value. It suddenly becomes tainted by the constraints of success and failure, of profit and loss, of spiritual rewards versus capitalistic survival.

Who, or What, Is Really in Control?

Sure, career advice always finds its way back to the hackneyed “Do what you love” cliché, but for many that advice is meaningless or, even worse, profoundly counterproductive and perhaps disastrous. Transforming a beloved passion into a painful and financially destructive career choice ruins both enterprises, and often the personal relationships tied to them. It is true that many people “Do what they love” for a living and consequently “have never worked a day in their lives.” And for those people, well, congratulations. You did it. You discovered the secret to a happy and meaningful career that eludes so many millions for some reason. Sincerely, good for you. That’s awesome. For you. But honestly we all know you have sacrificed part of your soul, because when you’re working the process – like having to manage others – now controls you, instead of the other way around.

Commitment vs. Love

Jobs, as in love, can largely be a process of elimination. Sometimes we do the eliminating; sometimes others eliminate us. Yet, there are many married couples out there who were not their spouse’s first choice for a life partner. And yet, millions of people get hitched every year and raise beautiful families and live happily ever after. (Sure, about 50% also get divorced, for whatever reason; that’s another conversation.) There is happiness in “settling” because life is short, the clock is ticking, and it’s better to commit to something that you can build into something meaningful than it is to slowly destroy something that once brought you fulfillment simply because you – at that time in your life – were deeply in love with it. Turning a passion or hobby into a job is like buying a boat because you love fishing. Do you know anyone with a boat? They’d be happy to sell it to you.

Gratitude vs. Entitlement

As much as we at HRFR are driven crazy by articles, posts, and columns that separate people into generations – Generation Y, Millennials, Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, ugh, enough with the patronizing stereotypes already – there is something to be said for people who experienced the Great Recession as a career-minded professional and those who didn’t. The years following 2008 were tough for everyone, and you’ll find that these folks consider an enjoyable, decent-paying job with full health benefits as the new “do what you love” employment. Not everyone can bake cupcakes, or teach fly fishing, or sell homemade soap for a living. And there is something to be said for those regular working people who act giddy on Friday because the weekend and total freedom are just around the corner. Many people who “do what they love” never get to have this feeling. Because they’re working all weekend.

Do you agree that “doing what you love” is bad advice? Do you disagree? What is your personal experience with finding the best career that suits you? Let us know in the comment section.

One thought on “Why “Do What You Love” Is Awful Advice

  1. I. Love. This.

    I always have this internal conflict when I hear someone say “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” or something similar. This isn’t realistic. As you said, it sounds nice, maybe for some it is reality. There is no possible way it will ever be reality for all. We must be grateful for each day and grateful for stability.

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